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Hyper-Everything Video

Last Wednesday, the Social Media Club Boston met out in Framingham for the latest in a series of programs we've run touching on the intersection of journalism and social media. My business partner Chuck Tanowitz has been very passionate about the subject, so it was only natural to invite him to moderate the program. Here is the video of the program:

Social Media Club Boston June 2011 Journalism Panel: "Hyper Everything"

From the front line to the local coffee shop to the courthouse, journalism faces pressure not only to remain profitable, but to remain relevant. This panel of journalists gives an in-depth discussion of the pressures and possibilities facing the journalism profession today.

Our panelists included:

* Ed Medina (@surfermedina), Director of Multimedia Development, Boston Globe and Boston.com
* Kristin Burnham (@kmburnham), Staff Writer, CIO.com
* Tom Langford (@tom_langford), Reporter, NECN
* Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman), New Media Contributor, NESN.com

The event was sponsored by IDG and Business Wire. Thank you to both for their continued support of the Social Media Club Boston!

What did you think?

ADDED JUNE 27:
After the event, IDG's Colin Browning interviewed Chuck to dive a little deeper in a few areas. Here is a recording of that interview:

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Stephen Baker on Life, Journalism, Numbers and His New Book

Thanks to event sponsor and, I'm happy to disclose, Fresh Ground client Netezza, members of the Boston Social Media Club were fortunate to be able to enjoy an intimate evening with author and former BusinessWeek Senior Editor Stephen Baker. Steve's most recent book, The Numerati, looks "at how a global math elite is predicting and altering our behavior -- at work, at the mall, and in bed." He was invited to present a keynote at the company's Enzee Universe 2010 User Conference, and was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to meet with the group and share his thoughts on life, journalism, numbers and the new book, expected out next year. You can listen to his session (just under a half hour) below.

I'm also pleased to announce that we'll have an exclusive interview with Steve for next week's Fresh Ground Podcast. (We did not include this interview in our podcast feed this week -- stay tuned for a great interview with a creative young PR pro in this week's podcast episode.)

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Update 23 June 2010: Tim Allik captured some video of Steve talking specifically about his BusinessWeek experience. You can read Tim's thoughts on the Tech PR Gems blog, and have a look at the video below:

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Christina Warren on Geek Chic: Fresh Ground #12

Christina Warren has never had to interview for a job, yet serves as a full-time writer for Mashable, one of the largest blogs on the web, as well as a contributor to AMC Entertainment’s Script-to-Screen blog, where she cover the latest movie news.

Fresh Ground Principal Chuck Tanowitz caught up with Christina at DEMO Spring 2010, where they talked about how she got to where she is today at the age of 27, and what’s next for her and for journalism and blogging in general.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“I wanted to write for as long as I can remember … but it’s funny how I got into [blogging]. I was a frequent contributor on USA TODAY’s music blog, and the music editor … liked my comments and reached out to me….”

“I want to make sure that … when people are Google stalking me … that I’m worthy of stalkage….”

“I’m geek chic…. I’m into technology, I’m into film, I’m into fashion. I can talk the talk, genuinely, but I can also go and be excited about pretty shoes.”

“The place that I’m working … is less important than [my] doing valuable work….”

“[The] old style journalism that existed even 10 years ago doesn’t exist anymore.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Photo credit: Grant_Robertson

Listen Now:

icon for podbean  Standard Podcasts: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download | Embeddable Player | Hits (0)

Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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Steve Wildstrom on the New Journalism: Fresh Ground #10

Steve Wildstrom wrote BusinessWeek’s “Technology & You” column from its creation in 1994 until BusinessWeek’s acquisition by Bloomberg in December, 2009. Fresh Ground Principal Chuck Tanowitz caught up with him at DEMO Spring 2010 where they discussed his current projects and thoughts on the future of journalism (not to mention a few business models that might work for newly independent journalists).

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“Journalistic freelancing is very very difficult these days because, basically, pricing has gone to hell. You’ve got thousands of people out there willing to do something — I can’t say it’s really the same thing that professional journalists do, but it seems to be good enough for a lot of people — and they’re doing it for nothing.”

“It’s kind of an ethical wasteland… It’s very situational. You have to figure out the rules as you go along. One thing I have been doing is some blogging for [a company] — what amount to feature pieces… I’m not writing specifically about [their] products, but I’m writing about a field that’s of interest to them.”

“I [thought] I’d get a lot of pushback from my journalistic colleagues. I didn’t.”

“I’m also writing product reviews … that would not be published anywhere, so they can anticipate what they can expect to see when they launch.”

“I think it’s becoming important for companies to promote themselves in new ways. [Sam Whitmore] has been promoting this idea for some time: that companies, because of the changes in journalism, can’t really count on journalists to cover their products in the way they used to, and they have to get more sophisticated about basically doing internal journalism to promote their own products.”

“I am not looking to build an empire at this point in my career. I’m not looking to retire either….”

“I think that Om [Malik] has done a fabulous job [with] GigaOm Pro…. Basically he’s providing analyst-type reports really competitive with what Gartner and Forrester [do] at substantially lower prices.”

“The fact is what analysts do and what journalists do is not particularly different, they just do it for different audiences.”

“In my years with BusinessWeek, I don’t think I ever quoted an analyst…. I found quoting an analyst was a lot like quoting another journalist, which … I wouldn’t do.”

“I wish I had a copy editor [as a blogger]. Good copy editors are invaluable [and] hard to find. It drives me crazy every time I get a blog comment pointing out a grammar error, a spelling error…. I’d be a lot happier if that editing got done before it got posted.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Listen Now:

icon for podbean  Standard Podcasts: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download | Embeddable Player | Hits (0)

Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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Scientology, Journalism and Money in a New Media World

The age of new media means that anyone can publish. That much we know. But the full implications of this switch are just becoming clear.

Take the situation in Tampa Bay, Florida, in which the St. Petersburg Times has a long history of investigative stories about the locally-based Church of Scientology. From a traditional journalistic standpoint this is good work. The Times has an extensive record of ethical reporting and its standards are some of the best in the industry. No one questions the work they do.

Well, except for the Church of Scientology, which took exception to the whole idea. Twenty years ago the church probably would have fought any allegations in the Times through legal means or by undertaking a media-relations campaign aimed at other publications. Maybe they would have opened up their doors to a local TV news program or asked their members to bring friends as a grass roots effort.

But in today's world they did something very interesting: they turned the Times reporting tactics on the Times. First reported by Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post, the news has spread quickly, with most stories asking whether this is a good idea.  It's not like the church is a neophyte in the journalistic world. They've had a publication called Freedom for some time.

It seems that the Church of Scientology knew what it was doing when it picked its reporters. It didn't pick just anyone, but people with great credentials including a reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize, the former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors and a former producer for the venerable TV program "60 Minutes."

The St. Petersburg Times didn't answer questions and pretty much stonewalled the whole process. Their defense was pretty simple: this wasn't journalism it was a hatchet job from a biased party. Of course, the church has made similar allegations against the Times. But is this particular piece a hatchet job? The reporters themselves took the job pretty seriously. Steve Weinberg, the executive director mentioned above, told Kurtz that he put $5000 in his bank account to play the role of editor and "tried to make sure it's a good piece of journalism criticism, just like I've written a gazillion times. . . . For me it's kind of like editing a Columbia Journalism Review piece." But he continued that this wasn't your normal reporting job: "It certainly wouldn't be something just any reporter would do. My role was more limited, and I can certainly use the money these days."

Ah yes, the money, the journalists got theirs up front, by the way. When the jobs came open True/Slant pointed it out, and asked openly whether a journalist should take the gig, but ended with "work is work." Journalistic organizations are laying off quality reporters by the truckload. At the same time, companies need content to attract readers to their blogs, Websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds or anything else that takes a feed. Journalists are people with skills who need to eat. If their skills aren't appreciated in the traditional journalism industry, they'll just make a move. Wouldn't you?

Oddly, in a comment on the True/Slant post, Steve Weinberg himself weighed in (first), saying "Recently, an experienced investigative journalist who has found it difficult to Steve Weinbergconduct his work because of the economic downturn asked me if he should apply for the Scientologists’ opening. I told him no, even though I like to see superb investigative reporting no matter who is funding it. More than any other existing organization that comes to mind, the Scientologists have been so hostile to outside journalists that I cannot see crossing the line to accept employment there. But I told my acquaintance that I’m speaking only for myself. After all, for some folks, work is indeed work, as the T/S posting by Matt Stroud says."

I guess "work is work" trumps his fears about the Church of Scientology. Or maybe he told his buddy "no" because he needed the work himself.

But the question still remains: is this particular effort really journalism? The journalists who worked on the report certainly think so, though the critics have their knickers in a knot about the whole thing. They're asking weighty questions like "what does this mean for the industry?" Although, I'm curious how loudly they'd ask those questions when the pinkslip lands on their desk and they're forced to find new jobs.

My personal problem with the actions of the Church of Scientology aren't in what they did, but what they're not doing. They're not releasing the reporting. That's what journalism is all about, shining a light into the darkest corners of society. It's not just about finding those places, but about turning on the light and letting the world see it. The Church isn't releasing the reporting.

If you're going to create content, then let's see it.

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Why the iPad Won't Save the World (and why it might)

Fifteen years ago I sat in the World Room at the Columbia Journalism School and watched as a digital expert from Knight Ridder showed off a piece of cardboard.

Really, it was a mockup of a type of digital content delivery device (video below). The hope, he said, was that the device would have a touch screen and use a form of electronic ink. People would receive their "newspaper" overnight via telephone line and have it in the morning. The pictures would come to life as videos at a touch and it would save the newspaper industry.

Though, he admitted, the technology just wasn't there to make the vision possible.

I don't need to tell you that iPad achieves that vision. Only, there's one problem: it isn't cheap enough. Well, that's not really a problem, but let me get to that.

Back in the World Room my classmates went nuts. They were terrified of the digital divide, that the device would be expensive and that because of it newspapers would be available only to those with means and not to the majority of Americans.

No, the Knight Ridder people assured us, the only way this would work is if the device was cheap enough to be almost a giveaway item, like one of those cheap calculators you get at the local bank.

Obviously the iPad isn't going to be that cheap. And on one level that's a problem. But on another, not really.

The history of communications is littered with haves and have nots. In fact, it relies on it. The 1950s is often called the "Golden Age of Television" because the shows tended to be written for a more literate audience. Well, that makes sense when you consider that TVs were expensive, so only people who were wealthier (and more educated) tended to purchase them.

Flash forward to the 1970s and 80s and you see the same thing happen with cable television. Move into the early 90s and it's the Internet. All along the way advertisers tout the next media as having a "more educated demographic" and the fact that they have a higher disposable income.

As a particular medium becomes more saturated and reaches a broader audience, it's more difficult to find the desired demographic. Not to fear, another communications for (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) comes along to save the day.

So yes, iPad will have its adopters, and copies. People will design content for this class of devices, just as they design content for smart phones, in order to reach the desired demographic. Over time, the price will come down and the audience will expand.

Though, I doubt my bank will give me one any time soon.

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Lee Sherman on Distributed Communities: Fresh Ground #5

In episode 5 of the Fresh Ground Podcast, Chuck Tanowitz talks with Lee Sherman, who runs the MintLife Blog. Lee brings over 20 years of editorial experience to Mint, including stints at Quicken.com and Worth magazine.

Chuck and Lee discuss how to create a content-driven marketing strategy, as well as the and differences and similarities between journalism and marketing. Lee shares some key numbers around Mint’s content-driven marketing strategy, and how to avoid thinking in terms of technological silos.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“I think that having a journalistic mindset has allowed us to create content that is compelling, and that leads to traffic, and traffic leads to conversions…”

“[At] the end of the day, we’re a software company, and we’re trying to get people to sign up and use a personal finance application… [You] always have to [keep] that in mind, but … building an audience through compelling content was key to our strategy….”

“[While] we’re very careful about protecting people’s privacy … we know a lot about how people are spending their money, and we’ve produced a number of infographics which illustrate trends in consumer spending, and those things tend to get picked up by other publications.”

“We would not have a publication called ‘MintLife’ if it didn’t actually bring in users.”

“[We] initially were thinking of building a community into the blog, but one of the learnings that came out of our discovery process … [was the] notion of distributed community…. Because of how people navigate to our content, the truth is that the conversation about our content is really taking place outside of Mint.com. [It’s] really taking place on Digg, on Facebook, on Twitter.”

“[We] embraced the notion of distributed community, and started to look at ways to bring the conversation into the blog. We haven’t fully gone down this road yet, but it’s a direction that we’re going to continue to go to, and there are tools like Backtype [and] Facebook Connect [to make this possible].”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Listen Now:

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Subscribe to our podcast using our
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Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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Journalism: Profession or State of Mind

During a recent Journchat, Chris Anderson and I had a bit of a back and forth about the idea that journalism is a state of mind as much as it is a profession. “It is a profession. Sorry. 100%” he Tweeted. Yes, he agreed that everyone has the power to communicate, but, he believes, journalism shouldn’t be the goal. “Everyone is empowered now. Zero barrier. But you don't want to be a journalist -- it's an unholy priesthood,” he continued. “It is essential not to paint yourself into a corner. America has rejected your sort of "objective" journalism for dead.”

Fox news and MSNBC have proven that bias can attract an audience, but by the same token, the New York Times continues to act as a standard base. What’s more, Wikipedia keeps making adjustments and changes meant to eliminate the bias from it stories, focusing entirely on the facts and grows stronger because of it.

No, journalism isn’t dead.

But the original question Chris and I were debating centered on whether content creators (bloggers, tweeters, Facebookers, you name it) are journalists. I believe it really depends on the mindset of the person creating the content. Some will consider themselves journalists, and they and their readers will hold them to journalistic standards, while others will not care about those standards, wanting just to tell the story of their day. The trick for us, as readers, is to separate the two.

This is an issue Sree Sreenivasan and I touched on during our podcast conversation. He looks at it from another direction: turning people with other skills into journalists. Sree pointed to the trend of the “programmer journalist” someone who has skills as a coder as well as a journalist. “I would hire and consider somebody a journalist if they make iphone apps with a journalistic mindset,” he told me about 10 minutes into the podcast. That mindset includes finding the truth, maintaining ethics, getting the story right and being able to get it out on deadline.

As for whether journalism is a mindset or a career, that depends on the person. “It can be both. It can be one for some, the other for others and both for many,” Sree says.

Part of our job as PR people concerns understanding this landscape so we can better guide our clients. We need to understand what gives a individual influence so we can better keep them updated with information.

Back at my previous job a member of my PR team messed up big time. Long story short, she made an edit that she thought was innocuous, got a story placed and later found out that her edit changed the very nature of the story itself. After hearing from the client’s customer and the editor of the publication, we cleaned things up, but during the issue the team member tried to put things aside by saying “it’s not like someone died.”

No, no one died. But I told her in no uncertain terms that the error got in the way of the editor’s credibility, and that’s all he and his publication have to sell.

Our job is to understand and respect that, whether we’re creating content for our clients or pitching stories. We can’t feed them false information and expect to be taken seriously.

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Sree Sreenivasan on the “Tradigital Journalist”: Fresh Ground #2

Sree SreenivasanWelcome back to the Fresh Ground Podcast. Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

In today’s episode #2, Chuck Tanowitz, principal at Fresh Ground Communications, talks with Sree Sreenivasan, professor of journalism and dean of student affairs at the Columbia Journalism School. Sree is among AdAge’s 25 media people to follow on Twitter and one of 22 professors named to the “Top 100 Twitterers in Academia” by OnlineSchools.org.

Sree and Chuck talk about the weakening divide between journalism and the corporate world, and specifically about the influence that corporate owners may have on the journalism process and the skills that newly minted journalism school grads need to leave with.

Some of the more interesting excerpts from Sree:

“Even today, any time there’s a light bulb story or anything else connected to GE, [NBC afilliates] make the disclaimer.”

“I presume any time a company owns you, the forces that are at work are much more subtle, and maybe even unspoken and unsaid… When I worked at WABC, we were owned by the Walt Disney Company, and we used get letters saying ‘dear fellow cast members’ from Michael Eisner.”

“I teach reporting, and reporting is something that you can use in a variety of fields. While most of our graduates still go into journalism today, there has been for decades people who’ve gone on to other fields…”

“We can either spend our time being orthodox about what should work and what doesn’t…, or we say ‘look, as long as someone like Saul Hansell is comfortable with the decisions he makes and the stories he tells and the contacts he makes, his ethics are far higher than most people’s, so I don’t worry about it.’”

“Every student must leave here with a new media mindset and a new media skill set.”

“[We use] a term called a ‘tradigital journalist‘ … that Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer prizes, [coined that means] ‘a traditional journalist with a digital overlay.’ So we absolutely teach the eternal, if you think about it: truth, ethics, getting the story right, doing it in a timely manner, and then you put this digital overlay over the that traditional stuff.”

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Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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Saul Hansell on AOL's Seed.com: Fresh Ground #1

Saul HansellWelcome to the inaugural episode of the Fresh Ground Podcast. Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today's competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

For our first episode, Chuck Tanowitz, principal at Fresh Ground Communications, talks with Saul Hansell. Saul is one of 74 people who recently accepted buyouts from The New York Times -- and who, along with Jennifer 8. Lee, is one of the biggest names on the list. In addition to his work covering technology and telecommunications at the paper, he also started the Bits blog and was one of the more regular contributors there. In all he spent more than 17 years at the times, 12 of those covering AOL, the company that he now calls his employer.

Saul and Chuck talk about media relations, the future of The New York Times and AOL, transparency, scaling content and the new role of journalism.

Some of the more interesting excerpts from Saul:

"AOL is just as much a journalistic organization as The New York Times, as Bloomberg, as NBC News, as all kinds of organizations new and old."

"In my experience as a journalist, [the relationship between companies and their PR agencies] is a deeply dysfunctional ... relationship that ... never served either the client or the agency..."

"The New York Times has a bunch of people doing great work and will continue for centuries to come..."

"I think all that kinds of media -- big and small -- give you voices to understand, and I think that one of the things that everybody is trying to figure out is [to] make sure that when you're reading something, you know where the person is coming from."

"AOL has a brand that needs to mean something, and it needs to mean trust if they're going to be in the content business..."

Subscribe to our podcast using our RSS feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/FreshGroundPodcast.

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Listen Now:

icon for podbean  Standard Podcasts [ 14:31m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download | Embeddable Player | Hits (0)

Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

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